In my software career I have tested everything from missile systems to television sets. Curi™, however, is new and different kind of consumer device, for me, anyway. While a member of Mass Challenge we took advantage of an opportunity to meet with members of the software development team of a large health insurance company. They stressed the importance of testing a consumer product, especially its user interface, as many times as possible with as many people as possible. There are so many nuances to be learned from how people use your product that the time spent teaching people and watching them is an investment with huge returns.
I began preparing people to test our product back in November, long before testing was to begin. I wanted people with all kinds of backgrounds: college educated, no college, smartphone users, flip phone users, those with a real need for what our product does, as well as those who had not clue how they would use it.
My goal was simple. I wanted Curi to be usable by as many kinds of people as possible. I felt if people had a desperate need for Curi™ that they would do anything to learn it so I wanted to see if people with no particular need or motivation could learn it, too. The result are even better than I dreamed.
Curtis and Julie built a deck of screenshots which would allow me to show users most of the available screens and allow me to provide a narrative of how one might use Curi thru the course of a day. With this I was able to explain to our volunteers the three roles: cared for, caregivers and minders; and the three statuses: Green, you have done everything and you’re fine for now; Yellow, an action is needed now; and Red, a task was missed. From this I would step them through the deck and they could explain for me what each screen was trying to convey to them.
It is said that fresh eyes will find things that the experts miss. This is certainly true. Just as a manuscript has typos, a demonstration deck has inconsistencies and these inconsistencies can make what is simple, look complicated. Changes in the color scheme, poor contrast between text and a background, or even the poor choice of words can make things confusing. My volunteers were each finding subtle inconsistencies and helping improve the product.
This method was working very well. Remotely from my laptop to my volunteer’s laptop, where they only needed a browser and a phone, I waltzed them through Curi™ where they could see and hear the demonstration and then describe and comment on the things, and flaws, they saw.
Then I ran my demonstration for my friend, Stacey, who is a software development engineer, and she took things to another level. She realized that my presentation tool has a few extra tricks that I had chosen not to disclose. She let loose writing comments directly on the deck and using its “whiteboard” to sketch out design concepts.
What do you do when your guest gets this excited? A mentor of mine once told me, “Gil, if you are trying to start a fire, find a spark and pour gasoline on it.”
I have taught two of my children to drive so I guess I know when it’s time to ride shotgun and let the ‘student’ take the wheel. With a click of the mouse I turned over control to Stacey and let her navigate through the demonstration while I described, in general terms, what I wanted her to do and where I wanted her to go. Now I could really see how intuitive our design was to follow. Unlike a powerpoint, each screen looked just like it would on an android or iPhone. If she could figure out the correct icon or place to click then it would move to the next screen. I could see every movement of her mouse and every hesitation. The learning was now truly going both ways.
Now, every demo is run by the volunteer. Some are tenuous a first. Others come flying off the starting line. All of them love the way Curi™ looks and handles. Each adds a little fine tuning that will make Curi™ a little easier, a little smarter and a lot more fun to drive.
To all my volunteers who have taken the demo, Thank You!
To my volunteers about to take the demo I say, “...Start your engines!”